Super Rugby Transtasman has been a strange competition, so it's fitting that Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith found it strange waiting on results to know whether his team had a place in the final.
After their 33-12 win over the Brumbies last Friday, the Highlanders had to wait and see if the Crusaders would beat the Rebels by more than 32 points and earn a bonus point to overtake them on the ladder or not.
The Crusaders fell short, and the Highlanders' ticket was punched.
"It's got a bit of a weird feeling around it and finding out you're in a final after the Crusaders game," Smith said ahead of the final against the Blues at Eden Park on Saturday night.
"Usually, with playoff rugby, you sort of have a playoff drive – quarters, semis, then if you're good enough, a final. But to kind of be in just through a result of a game was really weird.
"But it's really exciting; jumping around the kitchen on Saturday night was pretty cool and especially with my family. Then to ring Ash [Dixon] and say 'mate, we're in the dance' - it was just a really special moment. Just a little weird finding out that way, but special all the same."
The Highlanders have rewarded the players who got them to the final, naming an unchanged line-up for the match with lock Pari Pari Parkinson and winger Jona Nareki shaking off injury concerns to take their places in the squad.
It's the Highlanders' first Super Rugby final since their triumph in 2015, and it will double as co-captain Ash Dixon's 100th game for the team.
Dixon joined the Highlanders in 2015 following two seasons and 15 appearances with the Hurricanes, and has been a vital cog in their system since.
"He's a special man to me, a special man to this club, and it's just another little layer of wanting to play for the boys," Smith said of Dixon and his achievement.
"We haven't talked about it too much yet; I know we are going to be closer to the game. He's a legend of our club. He came down from the Hurricanes and really changed our club in the way he prepares, the way he carries himself as a man and a leader, so that holds great significance for myself to want to put on a performance out there that can hopefully put a bit of icing on the cake for Ash. He's a southern man through and through, and he deserves a good night."
Highlanders: Josh Ioane, Sio Tomkinson, Michael Collins, Scott Gregory, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith, Kazuki Himeno, Billy Harmon, Hugh Renton, Bryn Evans, Pari Pari Parkinson, Siate Tokolahi, Ash Dixon, Ethan de Groot.
Reserves: Liam Coltman, Ayden Johnstone, Josh Hohneck, Josh Dickson, James Lentjes, Kayne Hammington, Sam Gilbert, Teariki Ben-Nicholas.